Someone you know is ill, and you may not even be aware of it. Amazingly, they may not be either.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization announced that depression has become the world’s most widespread illness, and the numbers continue to rise.
This explains why the rate of suicide has risen so dramatically over the last 10 years. In the United States, suicide is the only top 10 cause of death that continues to increase each year. And for every suicide, there are 25 attempts that fail.
These statistics are particularly pertinent to men.
The Source of the Problem
And I believe the statistics for depression found in men are low. Most men have the belief that “real men” are never supposed to get depressed. They perceive it as weakness. Therefore, their depression often goes unreported, and they don’t get the help they need.
This explains why 70 percent of all suicides are men.
For the family and friends who are left picking up the pieces after a man takes his life, there are always questions, such as:
- What was he thinking?
- What would cause him to end his life and his future?
But, maybe an unclear view of the future is the actual problem. As these men looked ahead, they did not like what they saw. This is the one reality I see in all men who struggle with depression—no exceptions. Their future always seems bleak to them. Dark. Hopeless.
No one wants to live if he perceives his future will be hopeless.
What compounds their pain even further is that these men carry this heavy weight of despair upon their shoulders alone. They build walls around themselves, not allowing anyone in.
Again, men have developed this false idea that they are not supposed to struggle or get down. A real man is supposed to be emotionally strong. This makes for a very lonely life, and it explains what Thoreau meant when he said:
“Men lead lives of quiet desperation.”
Searching for a Cure
As we consider hopelessness and depression, I cannot help but go back to the words of Ernest Becker in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Denial of Death. Becker recognized how modern culture had become incredibly secular, and how God had become irrelevant such that many people believe their ultimate future does not exist.
We are here for a few short years, and then we die. And that is the end of it.
Becker contends this widespread belief in no ultimate future has caused society to put more emphasis on sex, romance, money, and power more than any culture ever before us. We are trying to deal with our cosmic insignificance; therefore, we look to these things as a form of escapism. As a way to retreat into our own worlds of distraction and diversion.
But this strategy does not always work.
We are continually reminded that life is ultimately empty and without purpose. It keeps breaking in on us that we have no ultimate future. And it only makes matters worse when a man is struggling with his work, his finances, and his relationships.
Dr. Martin Seligman is a professor of psychology at The University of Pennsylvania and is considered an authority on depression. He wrote an article in Psychology Today entitled “Boomer Blues.” He compared Baby Boomers with their parents’ generations, and he found their rate of depression was ten times higher than their parents. He then made an incredible statement:
“We are the most depressed generation in all of human history.”
Is there a way to be delivered from depression?
Let’s start by admitting depression is complicated, and there are no pat or easy answers. However, I believe men can survive almost anything if they have a sense of life-purpose that gives them something to live for in the future. Men can endure failure, shame, or difficult circumstances if they have meaning and purpose which give hope to their future.
Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived the Nazi death camps, leading him to write what became a very popular book, Man’s Search for Meaning. As a trained psychiatrist, he was fascinated as to why some of his fellow prisoners wasted away and died, yet others remained strong and survived. He concluded we cannot stay healthy if we do not have hope in the future:
“Life in a concentration camp exposes the soul’s foundation. Only a few of the prisoners were able to keep their inner liberty and strength. Life only has meaning in any circumstances if we have a hope that neither suffering, circumstances, nor death itself can destroy.”
The world’s most widespread illness is an epidemic.
But, there is hope, and you don’t have to face this problem alone. There are things you can do to get better. A good start is to identify, and hold onto, your life purpose.
Question: Where do you find your hope for the future?